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Set your own path’

Tess Civantos | Thursday, September 23, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of a three-part series about Terrance Rogers, a 1979 Notre Dame graduate who has returned as a graduate student with the goal of winning Bengal Bouts.

Terry Rogers has taken a trip back in time, as a 1979 alumnus who is now a Notre Dame student again, and plenty has changed in 31 years.

“In a way, it’s like I’m going back in time, carrying back with me the knowledge I’ve gained since that time,” Rogers said.

He said some things have changed substantially since the 1970s, such as press coverage of the Bengal Bouts tournament. With more athletic events to cover, local media no longer devotes as much press to the event.

“Then, the South Bend Tribune covered the Bengal Bouts extensively. A reporter named Barry Miller used to write us all up. He knew all our nicknames,” he said. “The town would get really into it, the football players would be boxing each other and the crowd would go wild.

“It was the heyday of tournament attendance.”

Rogers’ boxing description emerged from the three years he spent at West Point before transferring to Notre Dame.

“The South Bend Tribune billed me as the boxer from West Point, which seemed to have some sort of mystique or aura about it,” Rogers said.

As Rogers prepares to re-enter the boxing ring, he will meet some familiar faces. Terry Johnson, a volunteer coach and official for the Bengal Bouts, has held that post since before Rogers made his first Bengal Bouts attempt — and Johnson says today’s undergraduates will benefit from having Rogers spar with them.

“Since the day I met Terry, he’s been a great competitor, and more than that, he’s been a great sportsman. Anyone who’s faced Terry in the ring will tell you that,” Johnson said. “He’ll knock you down the hardest, but he’ll be the first to pick you back up again.”

Nonetheless, Johnson said Rogers’ health, as a 55-year-old boxer, will need to cooperate.

“Obviously, safety is our priority,” Johnson said, “If he’s allowed to box, he’ll be the oldest boxer ever to compete in the Bengal Bouts.”

But Rogers wasn’t too worried about his eligibility to participate.

“I’m probably in better shape overall now than when I was as a student here,” he said.

As Rogers has changed, so has life as a Notre Dame student — and Rogers noticed some improvements.

“The most obvious change is that this place is now 50 percent women. When I was here it was probably about 20 percent,” Rogers said. “Notre Dame guys don’t know how lucky they are.”

Another positive change, Rogers said, is the increased cultural diversity.

“I’ve noticed so many different ethnicities and nationalities here,” Rogers said. “Just like having women here, it’s made the University much stronger from a cultural and learning standpoint.”

Although Rogers is now studying in a completely different field than he did in his undergraduate days, he said students today are more accomplished.

Rogers said the application pool to be admitted into a Notre Dame graduate program was competitive, and he was rejected 11 times.

“After 11 rejections, it doesn’t take an Einstein to see that this is a more accomplished crowd,” he said.

Students may also have had more fun back in the day, Rogers said. Many students went out to the Four Corners bars every night and drove up to Michigan on Sundays.

Rogers recalled one bar called “The Library.”

“They could say, ‘I spent every night at The Library,’ and be truthful, sort of,” he said.

While some changes have been beneficial for the University, Rogers said football is another matter.

“Certain realities have tempered the students’ expectations,” Rogers said. “When I was an undergraduate, a national championship was considered a birthright.”

While Rogers can’t do anything to fix the football program, he can prepare himself to win the Bengal Bouts, which means a rigorous schedule of training of at least an hour every day.

After all, Rogers is not just fighting for himself, but to inspire other men over 40 and to raise money for the Holy Cross missions. With his wife’s support, Rogers plans to make his fourth attempt at winning Bengal Bouts a success.

“My wife said to me, ‘I’m coming out to watch you fight and I’m not coming out to watch you lose,'” Rogers said.

And he doesn’t plan to lose. But he does hope his story can be an inspiration to others.

“If you believe in yourself and you have reasons to, you don’t have to follow the path of the herd,” Rogers said. “Set your own path and the herd can follow you.

“That’s why I’m here.”